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Munk Centre

Tatiana Zhurzhenko
(Department of Philosophy, V. Karazin Kharkiv National University; CREES Visiting Scholar)

"(Anti)national Feminisms, Post-Soviet Gender Studies: Women's Voices of Transition and Nation Building in Ukraine"

On March 18, on the cusp of another Toronto springtime, CREES visiting scholar Tatiana Zhurzhenko (Dept. of Philosophy, V. Karazin Kharkhiv Natinal University) offered her audience an enlightening talk on "(Anti)national Feminisms: Women's Voices of Transition and Nation Building in Ukraine." Under the umbrella title of "Gender Studies," Dr. Zhurzhenko reflected on both gender studies and feminism in Ukraine. She addressed three general topics: feminism in the West versus feminism in the FSU; the interrelatedness of feminism and nationalism in Ukraine; and the debate between the two competing feminist schools in Ukraine. Given that such themes remain nascent processes throughout the post-Soviet world, such an agenda for Ukraine, as we learned, is not the straightforward affair it is vis-B-vis the West. Rather, the task proved an arduous one, to which the speaker attested.

Speaking to some of the difficulties faced in her research, Dr. Zhurzhenko illuminated the question of development and, more specifically, the birth of feminism in Ukraine. From her analysis, she concluded that there was, unarguably, a new era of feminism born out of the creation of an independent Ukrainian state. In other words, feminism and national identity, by their very nature, are inextricably linked to the nation-building process in post-Soviet Ukraine. Furthermore, she examined the legitimacy of certain key grassroots organizations that served as the initial champions of the women's movement during the early democratizing process in Ukraine.

A second, and equally perplexing issue that arose out of her research was the simple - or not so simple, as it turns out - question of definition of terms. In this vein, Dr. Zhurzhenko remarked that the concepts of "feminism" and "gender studies" in Ukraine are shrouded by an overall lack of even the most basic of understandings, insofar as a broadly accepted consensus of their definitions cannot be reached. In turn, this phenomenon has lead to misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misuse of terms in the academic and political realms when discussing issues germane to this field of study. The knowing misuse of definitions acts as a political and/or academic tool, which has been wielded, respectively, for increased voter support or funding.

In addition to her presentation, Dr. Zhurzhenko taught a six-week workshop for CREES MA students. The workshop was offered as an elective course, which focused on the same topics discussed in her presentation. As a leading scholar in her field, Dr. Zhurzhenko proved an invaluable source of information and reference material to those students researching themes related to Ukrainian nationalism and feminism, as well as the post-Soviet women's movement on a whole. It was a great pleasure to have her with us.

Julie Novak, CREES

Content: © 2002 Petro Jacyk • Design: © 2002 dragandesign.